12th March 2008

“It may be profoundly shocking to you that some people are willing to state baldly that God doesn't exist. That may be very threatening. But try not to get defensive and emotional. It just makes it look like your faith is weak and easily shaken.”

Anon.

14 Responses to “12th March 2008”

  1. epi406 Says:

    The quote has no defense to offer for their faith. Just don’t get upset when your faith is challenged. Ok. Last sentence is certainly true and is the most often used line of defense.

    Spelling—–baldly should be boldly.

    Also it shouldn’t actually be profoundly shocking that someone would say that god doesn’t exist. Where have these people been living? God actually existing would be more profoundly shocking wouldn’t it?

  2. Admin Says:

    Spelling – baldly should be boldly.

    I not sure it’s wrong. From the dictionary:

    bald – adjective

    4. open; undisguised.

  3. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    It may be profoundly shocking to you that some people are willing to state baldly that God does exist. That may be very threatening. But try not to get defensive and emotional. It just makes it look like your atheism is weak and easily shaken.

    And “baldly” is the correct spelling and usage.

    Chris: If you are out there, I saw your question about “maintaining your faith” from a few days ago; will answer tomorrow sometime. Only have time for a quick post. Gotta go!

    Have a nice day!
    Peace

  4. Critic Says:

    God actually existing would be more profoundly shocking wouldn’t it?

    Yes it would – to believers and unbelievers alike. Perhaps even more to the believers. I say this because, I still can’t believe that people actually believe in the existence of a god.

    And, as to the threatening nature of stating that god does exist (as the Oxymoronic xthinker has proposed), it is not threatening at all. At least not until the believers show up with pliers (to remove finger nails), guns (to shoot children on school buses), and explosives strapped to their chests (for mass slaughter of innocent men women and children). The mere act of believing in god is not threatening, it’s just pitifully stupid behavior.

    The threatening part is the evil that those believers will happily commit in the name of their god. The even stranger part is that they seem to like to maim and kill other religious people more than they do atheists. As evidence I submit Catholics vs Protestant, Sunni vs Shia, Baptist vs All-Other-Religions.

    Getting back to today’s quote, the common everyday violence committed by the religious godbots against other religious people who believe in the same god,

    makes it look like your [their] faith is weak and easily shaken.

  5. Terence Meaden Says:

    I can agree that most believers are shocked at the denial of their personal god by non-theists—truly shocked. Their world of make-believe allows no alternatives. I doubt that they feel threatened—more like they feel sorry for us.
    What they know not is that they are the ones who were turned into credulous acceptors of the impossible, that they have been deluded since their formative years, and that for most of them there is no hope of escape because their brains will not allow it. It is no use arguing with them because their minds are made up. The best hope lies among the more intelligent, the better educated, those willing to improve their knowledge of the universe. Science is doing a fine job of solving the problems of the origins of the universe and of life. Hope for the future depends on good science teaching beginning with the young, together with critical analysis of religions as only atheists can do well. Teaching of religion in schools by believers must be banned.

  6. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    Critic writes:

    “The threatening part is the evil that those believers will happily commit in the name of their god. The even stranger part is that they seem to like to maim and kill other religious people more than they do atheists. As evidence I submit Catholics vs Protestant, Sunni vs Shia, Baptist vs All-Other-Religions.”

    Honestly, I don’t really disagree with this, other than to say it should read “some believers” rather than implying all believers.

    “…the common everyday violence committed by the religious godbots against other religious people who believe in the same god”

    People who “believe in the same god” and kill each other in the name of that god DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE SAME GOD, regardless of what they say. The best example of this is the supposed fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam worship the same god; I deny that that is the case. Christian liberals/moderates who continually try to reach out to Islamic “moderates” fool themselves into thinking that there are any to reach out to. The same goes for those Christians (Catholic vs. Protestant, etc…) who kill each other in the name of some god. If they truly believed in the same god, they wouldn’t fight at all.

    “The even stranger part is that they seem to like to maim and kill other religious people more than they do atheists.”

    True, and this is strange. And very irritating. In my own circles I am often apprised of the “threat” posed by agnostics and atheists. I always ask the same thing: “What threat? Name one atheist who ever posed a threat to your personal beliefs or your ability to practice them (even to the point of violence)” They are unable to do so. The danger to theists (and atheists, and everyone in between) comes not from the non/un-believer, but from the fanatic believer.

    T. Meaden writes:

    “Science is doing a fine job of solving the problems of the origins of the universe and of life. Hope for the future depends on good science teaching beginning with the young, together with critical analysis of religions as only atheists can do well. Teaching of religion in schools by believers must be banned.”

    I agree that science is “doing a fine job,” and that much “hope for the future” is dependent on knowing and understanding the methods and conclusions of science. I don’t really see how science or it’s practice leads inevitably to the denial of the existence of god any more that spiritual practice automatically confers belief in a god. Atheism, however, does not in and of itself magically confer the ability to critically analyse religion as “only [it] can do [well].” Modern biblical scholarship and criticism (on the Christian side, anyway) has been doing a fine job analysing the historical foundations of Christianity in particular for a few centuries now, and is the source of much that is critical of both the ancient and modern Church (read John Dominic Crosson, for example, whose scholarship has led him to deepen his belief but change his practice, or Bart Ehrman, who has gone from fundamentalist to agnostic/atheist as a direct result of his scholarship!). None of this “shocks” or scares me. Not everyone needs to or probably ever will come to the same conclusion or believe the same thing.

    “What they know not is that they are the ones who were turned into credulous acceptors of the impossible, that they have been deluded since their formative years, and that for most of them there is no hope of escape because their brains will not allow it. It is no use arguing with them because their minds are made up.”

    This is almost exactly the same sentiment expessed among many believers about atheists. I think I know where this attitude comes from, but it doesn’t help either side to say a priori that their opponent is simply “deluded.” Atheists do no harm to their “knowledge” in accepting that there are those who sincerely believe; and believers do no harm to their “belief” in accepting that there are those who have sincerely come to the conclusion that there is nothing to believe in. Both the atheist and the theist should stand together against those who seek to force us both to make a particular god or philosophy “the law of the land.” We should fight them by word, always, and by deed if necessary.

    Have a nice day!
    Peace

  7. Critic Says:

    People who “believe in the same god” and kill each other in the name of that god DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE SAME GOD, regardless of what they say. The best example of this is the supposed fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam worship the same god; I deny that that is the case.

    I am sure that as a “moderate/liberal” religious person you are used to picking and choosing which parts of the religious dogma that you prefer to believe in then discarding that which make you a bit queasy; however, you cannot do this with historical fact. The historical fact is that the god of the Jews is/was the god of the Xians and is/was the god of the Muslims. This is historical fact.

    Now, as a ‘believer,” you can make up any version of that god that you want and empower him/her with the currently popular outlook of your current religion. Fine. But, don’t expect rational folk to buy into your ad hoc god who acts and thinks like you feel he should.

    The moderate/liberal religious mind sees no problem with making up a god roughly based on some primitive prototype then instilling the personal values of the religious mind into the newly created god.

    The rational mind sees that this is the case for all religions. All gods were created by humans in the form that humans wanted them for the purposes that were important to the humans at the time they created their god.

    I don’t see how this supports the existence of a god or the wisdom of the religious mind.

  8. Terence Meaden Says:

    ” . . . I don’t really see how science or it’s practice leads inevitably to the denial of the existence of god any more that spiritual practice automatically confers belief in a god. Atheism, however, does not in and of itself magically confer the ability to critically analyse religion as “only [it] can do [well].” Modern biblical scholarship and criticism (on the Christian side, anyway) has been doing a fine job analysing the historical foundations of Christianity in particular for a few centuries now, and is the source of much that is critical of both the ancient and modern Church (read John Dominic Crosson, for example, whose scholarship has led him to deepen his belief but change his practice, or Bart Ehrman, who has gone from fundamentalist to agnostic/atheist as a direct result of his scholarship!).”

    Several points could be discussed usefully, but I have no time now so I’ll emphasise just one point. Religion is usually taught by biased people, viz. believers in their own religion.
    However, the default position as regards knowledge of the origin of the universe and of our world and life is the null hypothesis which is that of the atheist, viz. the origin of matter and life owes nothing to anybody’s god unless proven otherwise.
    So those who think otherwise need to prove their case (but they cannot), so what believers usually do is nothing at all and simply accept the existence of some fictional god without proof and use this empty case to persuade children while their minds are most vulnerable and simple-mindedly trusting of adults.
    It is unfair on the unsuspecting child that pedlars of fake faiths get at children’s minds long before non-theist scientists can. Schools should be secular everywhere in the world by statute of the United Nations.

  9. Critic Says:

    The danger to theists (and atheists, and everyone in between) comes not from the non/un-believer, but from the fanatic believer.

    On the surface of this statement I see a point we can agree on; however, I fear that my definition of “fanatical” might be a bit broad for you to accept.

  10. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    Critic writes:
    “…as a “moderate/liberal” religious person you are used to picking and choosing which parts of the religious dogma that you prefer to believe in then discarding that which make you a bit queasy; however, you cannot do this with historical fact. The historical fact is that the god of the Jews is/was the god of the Xians and is/was the god of the Muslims. This is historical fact.”

    I don’t know quite how to label myself. I don’t think liberal or moderate quite does it, and I sure as hell ain’t conservative or traditional. I’m not sure. A few friends of mine seem to think I’m some sort of “agnostic Christian;” Is that an oxymoron, or what? : )
    It is often claimed that “Yahweh” of the Jews and “The Father God” of Jesus and “Allah” of the Muslims are the same god. This does not make it so. Early gnostics saw the god of the Jews/Old Testament as opposed to the Father God of Jesus. The late literary critic Harold Bloom thought that these three were very much alike, yet different from the modern Christian “god of love.” As for the Muslims, Allah seems to be an almost entirely violent and vicious demonic entity. It is almost exclusively Muslims who claim that “he” is the same as the god of Jews and Christians (along with some “liberal” and “tolerant” Jews and Christians).
    In any case, I do not merely “pick and choose” or “make [it] up.” There are criteria worked out and continually being refined within the ongoing discipline of biblical criticism (in the case of Christianity). I must admit that faith in god is at the very core of my thinking. This will not be acceptable to you or most other atheists. So be it. I can take your criticisms well enough, and for my part I will oppose any who use their own belief in god to condemn you in word or deed simply because you are an atheist!
    There is much, I think, that we can agree on. Including the fact that I would probably find your definition of “fanatical” a “bit broad!” : )

    TM writes:
    “…the default position as regards knowledge of the origin of the universe and of our world and life is the null hypothesis which is that of the atheist, viz. the origin of matter and life owes nothing to anybody’s god unless proven otherwise.”

    Historically, the default position seems to be theism. It is my understanding (I’m open to “correction” on this) that as soon as we have fossil remains of recognizably human beings, we also have at least some evidence of belief in an afterlife. Such a belief seems to go hand in hand with belief in god (or the gods). This is, of course, subject to interpretation, but it goes beyond the evidence to bluntly claim atheism as the “default position.”

    “Religion is usually taught by biased people, viz. believers in their own religion.”

    True! Do you think atheists are unbiased? Looking through many of the posts on this site, a strong bias is quite evident. Anyway…

    To Whom It May Concern:
    I am currently “teaching” a two-year study of other religions as a lay leader at my church. This study includes atheism, not because I think it just another religion, but because I believe that much of the criticism leveled at religion by atheists is important for the religious (and, especially here in the USofA, Christians) to listen to, understand, and perhaps even incorporate into their thinking. But I don’t want to end up with nothing but a list of things atheism and atheists are against or don’t believe in – such as god, religion, Christianity, etc… – nor do I wish to saddle all with a one-size-fits-all atheism. I will sincerely try to present atheism from the atheist POV as well as I am able. The atheism section of the class will begin in September of this year. So I ask all on this site:
    (1) What do atheists believe?
    (2) Is there a “spiritual” dimension to atheism?
    (3) Who are your “heroes of the faith,” so to speak?
    (4) Please recommend any books by and/or about atheists/atheism.
    (5) How and what would you teach in such a class?
    I have already read Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion,” the fiction of Phillip Pullman, and quite a bit by Michael Shermer.

    Thanks for your input!
    Have a nice day!
    Peace

  11. Terence Meaden Says:

    “It is my understanding (I’m open to “correction” on this) that as soon as we have fossil remains of recognizably human beings, we also have at least some evidence of belief in an afterlife. Such a belief seems to go hand in hand with belief in god (or the gods). This is, of course, subject to interpretation . . .”

    Evidence of “belief in an afterlife” by some ancient peoples does not mean that there IS any afterlife—but only that there was a fond hope that it could be so . . . which is also why many believers in gods nowadays cling to similar hopes.

    [That’s all for now (gotta go, as you say Chris). No time for further remarks in the next three days.]

  12. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    T. Meaden writes:
    “Evidence of “belief in an afterlife” by some ancient peoples does not mean that there IS any afterlife—but only that there was a fond hope that it could be so . . . which is also why many believers in gods nowadays cling to similar hopes. ”

    I did not claim that evidence of belief in an afterlife equals “there IS an[y] afterlife.” You miss the point. My point is (and in opposition to your earlier assertion):

    “…the default position seems to be theism.” (re-read above post)

    Which leaves atheism and atheists in the position of “proving” their case. I think this is probably a losing game anyway – for both sides.
    While modern individual human beings can certainly move from belief-in-god to non-belief-in-god (and vice-versa), it seems to me that theism of some sort must come first on an “evolutionary” level; i.e., a being must be capable of “believing” there is a a god before s/he can deny that there is in fact a god. Unless one can show that non-human beings and/or our non-human anscestors can be described as “atheists.”
    None of this do I offer as proof of theism; I simply deny that atheism is the “default position.”
    Neither does belief in an afterlife necessarily mean belief in a god or gods. I can certainly imagine an afterlife without god (as in Buddhism?), or even a metaphorical “afterlife” (as in E=mc2?).
    Anyway…
    See you (metaphorically speaking) in three days!
    Have a nice day!
    Peace

  13. Hypatia Says:

    So I ask all on this site:
    (1) What do atheists believe?

    Atheists share a lack of belief in god or gods. There really isn’t anything else we have in common.

    (2) Is there a “spiritual” dimension to atheism?

    No. But individual atheists may describe themselves as “spiritual” in some way.

    (3) Who are your “heroes of the faith,” so to speak?

    Maryam Namazie is a hero for her bravery, but atheists don’t necessarily share the same heroes.

    (4) Please recommend any books by and/or about atheists/atheism.

    Personally, I’d recommend thinking, rather than reading.

    Start by subjecting the bible (or just the concept of a bible) to logical, rational analysis. Who wrote it? Why? What was their world view?

    A couple of hours of that would teach you more than any book.

    (5) How and what would you teach in such a class?

    That the primary feature of atheism is to subject everything you are told to critical analysis and to develop your own opinions.

  14. Critic Says:

    I am being presumptuous and possibly stupid to answer these questions. I fully accept any and all criticisms from atheist readers who disagree with my statements below; however, I reserve the right to disagree with your criticisms. Non-atheist criticisms will be considered with less consideration ;{>}

    My stupidity will be verified when religious nutters use these words against me or against other non-theists. So be it.

    (1) What do atheists believe?

    Atheists believe that there is no god (to quote Penn Jillette).

    And I would add, that most atheists I know accept the scientific possibility, while fully understanding the extremely low probability, that there might be a god. Further, if scientific proof of a god were presented and verified through the scientific method, we would be willing to accept the existence of a god. But, having said that, there are few atheist who would believe that any such god would bear any resemblance to the god of any religion ever conceived by humanity.

    Atheists believe the same things that everyone else believes: we believe in love, friendship, family, and the companionship of a good dog. We believe that the rational consideration of all aspects of life lead to a fulfilled, happy and successful life.

    For myself, I define success by my happiness and my degree of freedom to pursue it. I’ll let your imagination run wild with this statement.

    Atheists believe that ALL problems and ALL questions have rational answers. It may be 100s or 1000s of years before we can determine those answers, but they will be based on a rational, scientific view of the universe. Not on a god driven model of the universe.

    And, I believe that I would rather be called a, “metaphysical naturalist and a monist,” rather than an atheist. Being defined by what one does not believe is not the most accurate or fair characterization. It would be the same as calling you a, “a-every-religion-except-modern-liberal-christianity-ist”. I can only hope that that characterization would not be fulfilling to you.

    ?(2) Is there a “spiritual” dimension to atheism?

    No, not any in agreed upon sense. Atheists don’t have a dogma of spiritualism.

    However, I believe (maybe this should be an answer to #1 above) that all people are spiritual to some degree. The problem is the perceived source of their individual spiritual experience. Religious folk are quick to turn to god for any warm fuzzy feeling they get and label that as a spiritual experience proving the validity of their belief in god, angels, unicorns, leprechauns, garden gnomes and lucky lotto numbers.

    Rational spiritualism (I am borrowing this term from someone whose name I can’t remember) is grounded in the knowledge of the universe provided by science and based on understanding that spiritual transcendence occurs when a realization of a scientific truth crosses some barrier to higher understanding and one is hit with the awesomeness of the universe and our current understanding of it. That is a poor description, but off the cuff it’s the best I can do. I apologize.

    ?(3) Who are your “heroes of the faith,” so to speak?

    No heroes. But I would pay homage to every theologian who at some point in their life finally decided to toss in the towel and quit trying to convince themselves that god exists. I am sure that there are more of them than you could ever believe.

    ?(4) Please recommend any books by and/or about atheists/atheism.

    “The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God,” by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. Much more eloquent than the recent crop of books from the, “New Atheists.” Although, I liked those as well – but for different reasons.

    “Letting Go of God,” a 2-CD set of a monologue with accompanying text by Julia Sweeney. Her story parallels mine so closely that I feel she speaks for me in most instances.

    ?(5) How and what would you teach in such a class?

    This is not an original idea – I present it because it is quite profound if you will only give it a fair hearing.

    I would make it abundantly clear that everyone in the room is an atheist. This is true because there are literally hundreds of historically and currently worshipped gods that are not the god that you believe in. Even the most devout believer in god, is a disbeliever in 100s of other gods. The people that you call atheists just believe in one less god than you do. When you have decided that all other gods are not real, it is not that big of a leap to decide that one more god, the one you believe in, is not real.

    To put this into perspective, think of the Greek, Roman and Egyptian empires – except for the latter part of the Roman empire, just before it was wiped out of existence, none of these millions of people ever heard of, let alone believed in, the god that you worship. The millions of lives that were lived in complete devotion to gods that you deny were, according to your religion, wasted and your god did nothing to help those poor souls (based on your understanding of the term soul) until 2000 years ago.

    Now, consider your religion and your devotion to one of the hundreds of gods which have been worshipped by humanity. How real can it be?

    [Oxymoronic Christhinker: I submit these ideas with complete honesty. If you deem them worthy of presentation to your class, I expect you to respect them and present them in their entirety – I do not expect you believe them or to defend them. How’s that for faith?]